The Tinder Murder Case
You might have already read about the Gable Tostee case. It was a Tinder date gone astray in Australia that ended in death. In 2014, 26-year-old Warriena Wright matched with 28-year-old Gable Tostee on Tinder. The two flirted over text conversations, then met for the first time on August 8, 2014. They met up at a mall and went back to Tostee’s apartment. At 2 a.m., Wright fell 14 stories to her death.
What happened during that time in the apartment before her death was captured in an audio recording by Tostee on his smartphone. In what his defense team called the “key to the case,” the recording revealed that “Ms Wright was not pushed by Tostee. She tried to climb down after he locked her out on the balcony.” According to the defense, it also showed that she acted “aggressively and irrationally,” threw rocks at Tostee and was “massively drunk.”
Tostee was acquitted of murder charges this month.
In further analysis of the case, Bond University criminologist Terry Goldsworthy said, “If he didn’t have the recording … there would have been no real evidence” – making it harder for Tostee to defend his case.
Social media is now evidence
In 2006, a high school student named “Melissa” was victimized by her teacher, Danny Cuesta. Cuesta was sentenced to 15 months in jail for raping and “endangering the welfare of a child.” Then Melissa sued Cuesta and school officials, seeking damages for “emotional distress” and “loss of enjoyment of life.”
But soon after, lawyers started examining Melissa’s Facebook feed. What they saw depicted a very different take on her life and state of mind. There were pictures of Melissa rock climbing, hanging out with her boyfriend and partying with friends.
Just last month, “the court ordered Melissa to hand over every photograph, video, status update, and wall message ever posted on her Facebook accounts.”
This is just one story among many similar cases in which what is posted or said on social media is being used as evidence in court.
Author Kathryn Brown said, “It’s becoming so standard when you’re involved in a lawsuit for the other party to say, ‘give us all your social media activity.’”
But how much does your life portrayed on social media reflect your “real” life? One could argue that just the appearance of a happy and joyful life on social media doesn’t reflect true reality. We tend to present ourselves on social media the same we do in “real” life; that is emphasizing all the good things going on in our life. As Jeffrey Hancock, a professor at Cornell University said, “It is a very old and very deep human phenomenon.”
However, that doesn’t mean the courts agree. In fact, “More and more, the courts say yes.” What looks like enjoyment of life on social media does mean enjoyment of life offline. But does that mean it’s fair? One thing is for sure, everything you post online could be consequential should you find yourself in a legal entanglement. So, as we’ve warned before, think twice before clicking “send.”